Cassandra Peterson on Being Elvira and Creating an Enduring Character

This episode Jason chats with Cassandra Peterson, who created and has inhabited the role of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark since she created the character as a revamped TV horror host with her show Elvira's Movie Macabre. Peterson joined the conversation from her home, where she's busy putting the final touches on her autobiography and shooting comedy videos—the most recent is a hilarious and very Elvira spin on Tiger King personality Carole Baskin.

Elvira's Movie Macabre
Cassandra Peterson portrays Elvira, Mistress of the Dark in several iterations of her horror-commentary-comedy show Elvira, Movie Macabre.

Peterson chatted about what makes the Elvira characters so popular, describing the creation of any good character as "a little from Column A and a little from Column B." In Elvira's case, it was the combination of a Valley Girl accent directly borrowed from her friend Moon Unit Zappa and a sort of hyper-sexualized version of classic vampire mavens like Vampira and Morticia Addams. She talks about her unique fame—Elvira could appear five times on the Tonight Show, regularly adorn posters and front whole seasons of amusement park and beer promotions, and yet she can take off the wig and makeup and disappear. That ability to disappear into and out of the role enabled her to lead a normal life with her now-adult daughter. (She also dishes that she made her daughter wear a little Elvira outfit for Halloween until she was old enough to object.)

Peterson also took the time to talk about Vincent Price, who for a time was "running in the same circles" as Elvira, and who she says was an incredibly kind person. She also talked about her time in the famous improv troupe the Groundlings, where she worked with fellow comedian Phil Hartman.

Though she can't say who will be publishing her as-yet-unannounced autobiography, Peterson talks about working on it as the current quarantine complicates publishing schedules. The book, meanwhile, will cover her colorful life. Peterson explains that having been a showgirl, touring singer on a European tour, and struggling actor/comedian, becoming Elvira was a calming change.

Cassandra Peterson can be seen as Elvira still in multiple places—on Hulu and Amazon with 13 Nights of Elvira and on Shout Factory TV and Amazon with countless episodes of Elvira's Movie Macabre. With any luck, we'll get to talk with her again when her autobiography appears next year.

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Jason Henderson is the host of the Castle of Horror and Castle Talk Podcasts, the editor of the Castle of Horror Anthology series, and the author of Quest for the Nautilus: Young Captain Nemo from Macmillan Children's Books.

About Jason Henderson

Jason Henderson, author of the Young Captain Nemo (Macmillan Children's) and Alex Van Helsing (HarperTeen) series, earned his BA from University of Dallas in 1993 and his JD from Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C., in 1996. His popular podcasts “Castle Talk” and “Castle of Horror” feature interviews and discussion panels made up of best-selling writers and artists from all genres. Henderson lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters.

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